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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/damaged-and-faulty-passports/damaged-and-faulty-passports-policy
1. Damaged passports
This guidance clarifies the definitions of wear and tear and a damaged passport. It also outlines what you examiners should do if a passport has been submitted for renewal, but it is damaged.
Post Office Ltd staff are not trained to examine a passport for damage. If a passport is obviously damaged they will ask for a countersignature, otherwise they will accept the passport application as a renewal.
2. What you should do if a passport is damaged
When an examiner judges that a passport which has been sent for replacement or renewal is damaged, the applicant’s identity should be established and the passport cancelled and returned. Read the guidance on cancelling passports.
Damaged passports should not be treated as confidential waste aside from exceptional cases. Destroying damaged passports previously resulted in complaints from applicants who had applied and were expecting their passport to be returned. One complaint was supported by the ombudsman.
As a result, it was decided in 2006 to stop treating damaged passports as confidential waste as no definitive security benefits could be proved to counter the number of complaints generated and the difficulty of applying the policy consistently. You still need to establish identity where an application has a damaged passport.
3. Definition of wear and tear
When deciding whether a passport falls under wear and tear, examiners should look at the travel history of the document - multiple visas and stamps would indicate heavy use. Wear and tear is therefore more likely.
Passports classed as wear and tear can be accepted as evidence of nationality and identity.
Where a passport has been accepted as evidence of nationality and identity, the passport should be cancelled and returned to the applicant in the normal way.
These applications can be treated as renewals and do not need a countersignature. See counter services and upgrades. Any cases of doubt should be referred to a line manager.
If there is any reasonable doubt then the application should be processed via the Fast Track service.
4. Definition of a damaged passport
A damaged passport is one which isn’t in a condition to be accepted as proof of identity. Damage may include the following:
- details are indecipherable
- the laminate has lifted enough to allow the possibility of photo substitution
- discolouration to the bio-data page
- chemical or ink spillage on any page
- missing or detached pages
- the chip or antenna shows through the end paper on the back cover for the new style e-passports
- the chip has been identified as damaged after investigation
5. Establishing identity
If a digitally-issued passport or e-passport is judged as damaged and the application has not been countersigned, the examiner must complete all necessary identity checks against the electronic record. If the record is not on the system (as in some British Overseas Territories Citizen cases), you must ask for a countersignature.
If an older style machine-readable passport is judged as damaged and the application has not been countersigned, identity should be confirmed either by requesting a countersignature or by obtaining the issue file. In counter applications it is normally appropriate to request a countersignature - a re-booking form stating the reason should be completed and agreed by a line manager. In postal applications, it is normally appropriate to obtain the issue file.
If the examiner is satisfied that the application can be passed for issue after making the necessary checks or considering the new countersigned application, the passport should be cancelled and returned. Where there is any doubt, the case should be referred to a line manager.
Very rarely, a passport sent in for replacement is received in such a poor state that it should be handled as little as possible (e.g. it is already in pieces or is damp). These may continue to be treated as confidential waste.
Passports previously reported stolen that are sent in after a replacement has been issued will not normally be returned to the holder.